Natural Object: Paleontological Find


Brooklyn, which is located at the mouth of what Walt Whitman called “fish-shaped Paumanok,” using a Native American word for what we now call Long Island, is, geologically speaking, loosey-goosey. We are sitting on glacial till, the rubble (sands, clays, gravels, erratics, etc.) pushed down here during the Pleistocene by the ice. (There was plenty of beach-front property in those days, only it was much further to the south.) There are actually two terminal moraines on Long Island, from different glacial advances. The moraine curving through Brooklyn is called Harbor Hill, but that’s not a very well-known name; better known are such neighborhoods as Bay Ridge, Park Slope, Greenwood Heights, Prospect Heights, and so on, which memorialize the topography. (And on the other side of the moraine is the outwash plain, rather appropriately called Flatlands and Flatbush around here. )

As a result of the glaciers, we have a lot of differently-aged pieces of earth here, all a-jumble. (The Rock Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a number of boulders labeled as to type and place of origin.) What this means for our purposes is that it is very hard to date anything found in the ground. Take this, for instance:

If this isn’t an ancient stiff-tail, Trilobitomorpha telsonia, then my name is Harcourt Fenton Mudd. These suckers haven’t been sighted since the Permian! I’m no expert, of course, far from it, but I think this is rather extraordinary, even with the muddled provenance. I found it at the building site for The Teilhard, the look-at-me-glass-wrapped needle of a “luxury” apartment tower on Nelson St., hard by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

I am awaiting a delegation from the AMNH.

11 Responses to “Natural Object: Paleontological Find”

  1. 1 Melissa April 1, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Wow, Mr. Mudd, er, I mean, Backyard, just … wow! That find is way beyond cool. Was it just, like, lying there, on the ground, right out in the open? Looks like a cross between a turtle and a metronome. Very exciting.

  2. 2 Nate A April 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    That’s an amazing fossil that you’ve built. You should go in search of the chupacabra next.

    • 3 mthew April 1, 2010 at 5:30 pm

      Well, I can only hope my reconstruction is correct. I understand there are Chupacabra to be found in Sunset Park.

  3. 4 mthew April 1, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Metronome is an excellent call. These guys were well known for their sense of timing.

  4. 5 Traci April 1, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    You found this at The Teilhard building site? Rumor has it that those luxury apartments will have a stellar view of the Omega Point (in addition to the BQE).

    Impressive find, Mr. Mudd!

    • 6 mthew April 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm

      Omega Point is certainly going to be a better view than that gutter of a highway. Although you have to wonder who at the Point is going to be looking back into your windows up there.

  5. 7 Ted C. MacRae April 2, 2010 at 1:28 am

    Okay, I’ll admit it – just for a second there you had me 🙂

  6. 8 mthew April 2, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Now, the day after April Fool’s, the truth can be told. This is a turtle shell, probably an eastern red slider, mated to an Atlantic horseshoe crab caudal spine, a.k.a. a telson, or tail. “The Teihard” was a reference to the French paleontologist/theologian, whom some suspect of being behind the Piltdown Man fraud. If you don’t know who H.F. Mudd is, consult your original Star Trek.

  7. 9 mthew April 1, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Reblogged this on Backyard and Beyond and commented:

    I’ll admit that this, my first, was better.

  8. 10 elwnyc April 1, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    I’ve heard that these are favorite prey of jackalopes. Can you confirm this?

Leave a Reply to Traci Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Bookmark and Share

Join 660 other followers

Nature Blog Network


%d bloggers like this: